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Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni implores white people to listen, empathize with African Americans

Rockets, Mike D'Antoni, James Harden

Houston Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni has been hit hard by the recent chain of events stemming from the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American who died of asphyxia after a Minneapolis officer knelt on his neck.

Floyd’s death opened the floodgates to nationwide protests in search of racial equality and eliminating police brutality — two things African Americans have been long pleading for.

D’Antoni’s Rockets roster is mostly comprised of African American players, the only quasi-exception being center Isaiah Hartenstein, who is half-black. As a longtime NBA coach, D’Antoni has been appalled by the actions that have turned the country to civil unrest:

“I’m just really horrified at the lack of understanding or compassion or empathy that we’ve developed in this country,” D’Antoni told Kelly Iko of The Athletic.

“That’s what bothers me more than anything. The empathy that everybody’s born with but probably is taught differently—[and] it’s something that I think is super important—has gotten to a place where it’s not good. And it’s horrifying and it’s disgusting. I just hope that reforms will come and people will start listening and start feeling, start understanding. And I know it’s asking a lot this probably should have been done many years ago. Going forward, listen with an open heart, try to enact some reforms that will help everybody, not just a few.”

The Rockets coach was born in West Virginia and is of Italian heritage. While he admittedly can’t claim to relate to the struggles of African Americans, he’s hoping to be part of the solution:

“I’m white,” said D’Antoni. “I can’t really say how I relate to it. But I can listen, understand, try to do the best I can not to be that way and help be a part of the solution, not the problem. Yeah. And just have that empathy for people that I have no idea day to day, minute to minute what they go through. I can see it and I can understand it. Until you feel fear you don’t know what that is, but it’s something that we should all strive to do. Just understand that and try to be better, better at things that are hard for us to understand that is real.”

The first part of making a change comes with understanding it. To do so, white people will need to do more than just hear black people out but listen, absorb, and understand before they can enact change.

The Rockets coach has already taken the first few steps and is hoping his platform will allow him to help others get there.

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